Reporters were shown replica parts of the bomb created by Jose Pimentel, according to US officials [Reuters]

New York police have arrested a 27-year-old man on charges of plotting to build bombs to kill United States soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jose Pimentel, who police say was a follower of the late Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was arraigned on Sunday night in New York state court on terrorism-related charges.

A naturalized US citizen born in the Dominican Republic, Pimentel was arrested on Saturday in a Manhattan apartment while assembling a bomb, police said.

"We had to act quickly because he was, in fact, putting this bomb together," Ray Kelly, New York police commissioner, said.

Pimentel admitted he "took active steps to build the bomb, including shaving the match heads and drilling holes in the pipes" and was "one hour away from completing it", read the criminal complaint filed by the Manhattan District Attorney.

Authorities called him a "lone wolf" who had converted to Islam and became a radical. Pimentel, who has not been charged in federal court, faces life in prison if convicted.

He was under surveillance since May 2009 and considered New York police cars, a New Jersey police station and US post office among his potential targets, officials said.

'Osama Hussein'

Kelly said Pimentel took instructions from the article "How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom" published in the online magazine "Inspire" which is run by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

"We think an event that really set him off was the elimination of Anwar al-Awlaki," Kelly said. "His actions became a lot more intense after September 30."

A US drone strike killed Awlaki, a US citizen, in Yemen in late September, ending a two-year manhunt. US intelligence called Awlaki the "chief of external operations" for al-Qaeda's Yemen branch and a Internet-savvy propagandist.

Kelly said Pimentel "talked about changing his name to Osama Hussein to celebrate his heroes Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein".

He also talked about killing US military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the complaint said.

Source: Agencies